Should I alter my online persona (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) to be more conservative during a job search?

By now, everyone knows that you can no longer hide on the Internet.

By now, everyone knows that you can no longer hide on the Internet. There is a trail of information about yourself, your friends, and other personal and professional contacts which – like it or not – forms your personal brand online. Since you have an online brand whether you want one or not, you ought to manage it wisely. And, remember, having no information online these days could make potential employers wonder if you're hiding something, or worse, that you haven't mastered the world of digital communications.

So you've decided to manage your online personal brand. You must ask yourself the following question: Does my personal online identity adversely impact my professional reputation? If the answer could possibly be yes, then you'd better remove the offending information, be it an unflattering photo in a compromising position, a blog posting which expresses off-putting or radical beliefs, insulting comments about others, or simply poor grammar.

These tips will help you to avoid looking foolish and unprofessional, but there is a difference between being smart and being phony. In this transparent age, hiring managers are able to see right through an artificially sterile online persona. Yes, a picture of you drunk at your college frat party should be removed (or utilize privacy settings), and a Facebook posting full of typos, grammatical errors, or obscene language will present an unprofessional image to prospective employers. However, that doesn't mean you can't post pictures at parties; good social skills are important for any PR professional. You can still write blog entries about your hobbies, even if prospective employers won't share all of your viewpoints. After all, our clients benefit from a diverse mix of opinions and experiences.

In short, be yourself online, but smooth out the rough edges and make sure you come across as a smart professional.

Steve Seeman is a VP at Makovsky & Company

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